Last Friday my husband had a dinner function at work. He had asked me to accompany him, and I was eager to attend. We scheduled a babysitter two weeks in advance—Friday morning arrived, and that sitter was sick. I called two back-up sitters, with no luck. At this point the only way I could attend was enlisting the help of a friend. I called my friend who selflessly accommodated my last-minute request to watch our two preschool daughters.
I called my husband to tell him our friends would watch the girls and I would be his date after all. His response: “Great! I’ll pick them up a bottle of wine on the way home.” Um. Wow. My husband was practicing a healthy give-and-take in the relationship; something that should have crossed my mind, but hadn’t.
Amidst the busyness of life, it’s easy to ask for favors here, there, and everywhere, while forgetting to look outward and return the kindness.
So, dear reader, remember:
- Don’t look to the same individual for favors again and again. If the coworker or friend doesn’t have good boundaries and eventually tell you no, he’ll continue saying yes and almost certainly grow resentful.
- If an individual performs a favor for you, return the specific favor when possible. I’ll happily babysit for my friend the next time she has a similar last-minute request. If a coworker agrees to trade a shift with you, you should return the favor by trading a shift with him the next time he is in a bind.
- If an individual performs a favor for you that will cost him money, compensate the individual. If you are asking for a ride from a coworker or friend, compensate the gas money.
- If an individual performs a favor for you that will cost him time, give a small, appropriate gift. In my example it was a bottle of wine. This is most appropriate when outside the confines of work; you wouldn’t gift wine to a coworker who helps you with a group project, but you could gift wine to that coworker if he helped you outside of work.
- Write thank you cards to individuals who have gone out of their way to serve or assist you. Sometimes a thoughtful thank you note is most appropriate within the confines of work.
- Describe the individual’s helpfulness to his supervisor; he will appreciate the specific praise.
- Always verbally express your gratitude directly to the one who supported or assisted you.
My final suggestion is to pay for services when help is consistently needed. If mowing my lawn is impossible or impractical for me, I will hire a teenager or professional service instead of repeatedly asking my neighbor to help me as a favor.
Sure, we don’t technically want to keep score with giving and taking. However, when relationships feel lopsided, folks feel taken advantage of and grow resentful. We want individuals to feel appreciated.
If you are a professional working with students or consumers who are blind or visually impaired, utilize CareerConnect’s Social Skills Lesson Series when teaching related lessons.
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